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Selling Textbooks – Amazon vs. Half.com vs. Ebay

The Fall semester at Johns Hopkins’ [3] MBA program just ended today and I’m going through the usual end-of-the-semester ritual of selling my gently used textbooks for dimes and quarters on the dollar. I never really sat down and investigated which service would give me the most bang for my buck until now and I still think I am making the right choices. While I was pretty sure what their commissions were and how each service operated, having sold items on Amazon [4], Ebay and Half.com before; I never looked in close detail at the numbers.

Below is a comparison of the fees:

Site Fees/Commission Shipping Stipend
List Sale Standard Expedited Fee Schedule
Amazon Marketplace [4] $0 15% $1.23 $1.67 Link [5]
Half.com [6] $0 <15% $1.94 $4.70 Link [7]
Ebay [8] Varies ~5.5% $0 $0 Link [9]

Ebay Disqualification: I’m removing Ebay from seriously being in this comparison simply because you go to Half.com to buy textbooks, not Ebay. Ebay is for everything else and if you try to sell a textbook on Ebay, you’ll most likely be sorely disappointed unless it’s a collectible or something of that nature.

Now onto the comparisons…

Final Sale Fees:

Half.com Wins. The fee schedules, as you may see, aren’t as simple as the table lays them out to be so you might want to delve further into those. For example, Half.com uses an Ebay-esq scale for its fees based on the sale price of the book. If the book is under $50, you pay 15%. If it’s over $50, then every dollar above $50 but under $100 is assessed a fee at a 12.5% rate. Usually your textbooks will fall in the $150 to $50 range, so this final fee will always be less than or equal to the Amazon.com fee.

Shipping Stipend

Half.com Wins (again). You will also see that Half.com’s shipping stipend is significantly higher than Amazon.com’s, especially in the Expedited fee. If you know that your book is going to fit into a USPS Flat Rate Envelope, then expedited will actually net you a few cents (Flat rate is $3.95 as of this writing, to be raised in 2006) whereas it could cost you a few dollars if you sold via Amazon.
Caveat: While Amazon’s stated stipend is relatively stingy, I listed a textbook and the stipend they offered was over $3. Perhaps their actual policy has changed, I would imagine it has, but their policy pages don’t reflect the new values.

How Long Until You’re Paid?

Tied. Amazon pays you 14 days after you sell the book and Half.com pays twice a month. Sometimes the math works out that you get it faster than 14 days, sometimes it takes 14 days. Either way, you can get it direct deposited and I see it as a wash.

I still choose Amazon Marketplace with Half.com winning out on Fees and on the Shipping, and the reason is because the average sale price of the typical book is higher on Amazon. A book that would sell for $10 on Amazon Marketplace might be listed for only $5 at Half.com, in the case of a book I just listed, the difference was that staggering. I’m comparing Brand New books to Brand New books (I didn’t make the mistake of comparing New to Used).

The demand for books on Amazon.com appears to be much higher than at Half.com – that’s why I use Amazon Marketplace to sell my textbooks.